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1.3.4 Feature Test Macros

The exact set of features available when you compile a source file is controlled by which feature test macros you define.

If you compile your programs using ‘gcc -ansi’, you get only the ISO C library features, unless you explicitly request additional features by defining one or more of the feature macros. See GNU CC Command Options in The GNU CC Manual, for more information about GCC options.

You should define these macros by using ‘#define’ preprocessor directives at the top of your source code files. These directives must come before any #include of a system header file. It is best to make them the very first thing in the file, preceded only by comments. You could also use the ‘-D’ option to GCC, but it’s better if you make the source files indicate their own meaning in a self-contained way.

This system exists to allow the library to conform to multiple standards. Although the different standards are often described as supersets of each other, they are usually incompatible because larger standards require functions with names that smaller ones reserve to the user program. This is not mere pedantry — it has been a problem in practice. For instance, some non-GNU programs define functions named getline that have nothing to do with this library’s getline. They would not be compilable if all features were enabled indiscriminately.

This should not be used to verify that a program conforms to a limited standard. It is insufficient for this purpose, as it will not protect you from including header files outside the standard, or relying on semantics undefined within the standard.


If you define this macro, then the functionality from the POSIX.1 standard (IEEE Standard 1003.1) is available, as well as all of the ISO C facilities.

The state of _POSIX_SOURCE is irrelevant if you define the macro _POSIX_C_SOURCE to a positive integer.


Define this macro to a positive integer to control which POSIX functionality is made available. The greater the value of this macro, the more functionality is made available.

If you define this macro to a value greater than or equal to 1, then the functionality from the 1990 edition of the POSIX.1 standard (IEEE Standard 1003.1-1990) is made available.

If you define this macro to a value greater than or equal to 2, then the functionality from the 1992 edition of the POSIX.2 standard (IEEE Standard 1003.2-1992) is made available.

If you define this macro to a value greater than or equal to 199309L, then the functionality from the 1993 edition of the POSIX.1b standard (IEEE Standard 1003.1b-1993) is made available.

Greater values for _POSIX_C_SOURCE will enable future extensions. The POSIX standards process will define these values as necessary, and the GNU C Library should support them some time after they become standardized. The 1996 edition of POSIX.1 (ISO/IEC 9945-1: 1996) states that if you define _POSIX_C_SOURCE to a value greater than or equal to 199506L, then the functionality from the 1996 edition is made available.


If you define this macro, functionality described in the X/Open Portability Guide is included. This is a superset of the POSIX.1 and POSIX.2 functionality and in fact _POSIX_SOURCE and _POSIX_C_SOURCE are automatically defined.

As the unification of all Unices, functionality only available in BSD and SVID is also included.

If the macro _XOPEN_SOURCE_EXTENDED is also defined, even more functionality is available. The extra functions will make all functions available which are necessary for the X/Open Unix brand.

If the macro _XOPEN_SOURCE has the value 500 this includes all functionality described so far plus some new definitions from the Single Unix Specification, version 2.


If this macro is defined some extra functions are available which rectify a few shortcomings in all previous standards. Specifically, the functions fseeko and ftello are available. Without these functions the difference between the ISO C interface (fseek, ftell) and the low-level POSIX interface (lseek) would lead to problems.

This macro was introduced as part of the Large File Support extension (LFS).


If you define this macro an additional set of functions is made available which enables 32 bit systems to use files of sizes beyond the usual limit of 2GB. This interface is not available if the system does not support files that large. On systems where the natural file size limit is greater than 2GB (i.e., on 64 bit systems) the new functions are identical to the replaced functions.

The new functionality is made available by a new set of types and functions which replace the existing ones. The names of these new objects contain 64 to indicate the intention, e.g., off_t vs. off64_t and fseeko vs. fseeko64.

This macro was introduced as part of the Large File Support extension (LFS). It is a transition interface for the period when 64 bit offsets are not generally used (see _FILE_OFFSET_BITS).


This macro determines which file system interface shall be used, one replacing the other. Whereas _LARGEFILE64_SOURCE makes the 64 bit interface available as an additional interface, _FILE_OFFSET_BITS allows the 64 bit interface to replace the old interface.

If _FILE_OFFSET_BITS is undefined, or if it is defined to the value 32, nothing changes. The 32 bit interface is used and types like off_t have a size of 32 bits on 32 bit systems.

If the macro is defined to the value 64, the large file interface replaces the old interface. I.e., the functions are not made available under different names (as they are with _LARGEFILE64_SOURCE). Instead the old function names now reference the new functions, e.g., a call to fseeko now indeed calls fseeko64.

This macro should only be selected if the system provides mechanisms for handling large files. On 64 bit systems this macro has no effect since the *64 functions are identical to the normal functions.

This macro was introduced as part of the Large File Support extension (LFS).


Until the revised ISO C standard is widely adopted the new features are not automatically enabled. The GNU C Library nevertheless has a complete implementation of the new standard and to enable the new features the macro _ISOC99_SOURCE should be defined.


If you define this macro, everything is included: ISO C89, ISO C99, POSIX.1, POSIX.2, BSD, SVID, X/Open, LFS, and GNU extensions. In the cases where POSIX.1 conflicts with BSD, the POSIX definitions take precedence.


If you define this macro, most features are included apart from X/Open, LFS and GNU extensions: the effect is to enable features from the 2008 edition of POSIX, as well as certain BSD and SVID features without a separate feature test macro to control them. Defining this macro, on its own and without using compiler options such as -ansi or -std=c99, has the same effect as not defining any feature test macros; defining it together with other feature test macros, or when options such as -ansi are used, enables those features even when the other options would otherwise cause them to be disabled.


If you define one of these macros, reentrant versions of several functions get declared. Some of the functions are specified in POSIX.1c but many others are only available on a few other systems or are unique to the GNU C Library. The problem is the delay in the standardization of the thread safe C library interface.

Unlike on some other systems, no special version of the C library must be used for linking. There is only one version but while compiling this it must have been specified to compile as thread safe.

We recommend you use _GNU_SOURCE in new programs. If you don’t specify the ‘-ansi’ option to GCC, or other conformance options such as -std=c99, and don’t define any of these macros explicitly, the effect is the same as defining _DEFAULT_SOURCE to 1.

When you define a feature test macro to request a larger class of features, it is harmless to define in addition a feature test macro for a subset of those features. For example, if you define _POSIX_C_SOURCE, then defining _POSIX_SOURCE as well has no effect. Likewise, if you define _GNU_SOURCE, then defining either _POSIX_SOURCE or _POSIX_C_SOURCE as well has no effect.

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